3 Ajivikas


   The Ajivikas were an ancient cult known mostly through references in contemporaneous Buddhist and Jain literature. The founder of the cult was Maskariputra (d. 484 B.C.E.), who had learned from earlier teachers in the tradition. The last ele-ment of Ajivika tradition died in India around the 15th century.
   As did the followers of SAMKHYA, the Ajivikas did not believe in a god or gods. They believed only in KARMA and the round of births and rebirth, and were strictly deterministic. Each of us, they thought, must live through these cycles for a fabulously long period of time—8,400,000 great eons; no amount of good or bad deeds would make any difference. The Ajivikas were criticized in some texts for licentious-ness, but the evidence indicates that, compelled as they believed by fate, they were devoted ascetics.
   Further reading: B. M. Barua, The Ajivikas (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1920); A. L. Basham, History and Doctrine of the Ajivikas (London: Luzac, 1951); ———, The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the History and Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent before the Coming of the Muslims (Calcutta: Rupa, 2001); R. G. Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Reli-gious Systems (New York: Garland, 1980); Shashib-husan Das Gupta, Obscure Religious Cults (Calcutta: Firma KLM, 1995).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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